They swap out hymns for pop songs, motivational speeches for readings, and celebrate “the one life we know we have”.
I attended their last service, and found myself disagreeing violently with co-founder Sanderson Jones’ characterisation of the gathering as “all the best bits of church, but with no religion.” That’s like saying the best part of the old Oxford Tavern was the poles.
Enjoyable or not, both the new Tavern and the Sunday Assembly are part of the long, inglorious march of gentrification.
The pub’s new clientele tries to access some of the old strip club’s charm, drinking cocktails like the “swinging tit” and the “banana hammock”.
In a similar way, the Sunday Assembly attempts to recreate an imagined moment when vibrant church communities were a real thing, but with none of the obligations. In order to operate, both have had to kick out the original tenants, the reason for visiting in the first place: the strippers and, in the case of the Sunday Assembly, God.